GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Riley Barber’s signing with the Detroit Red Wings in the fall marked a bit of a homecoming.

“I grew up in Livonia since I was 13,” Barber said. “I moved from Pittsburgh. So I’m very familiar with Grand Rapids.”

Yet Barber’s season got off to tough start.

“I got COVID right before training camp, so that kind of definitely made me get off to a little slower than I’d like,” Barber recalled.

But as camp progressed, Barber impressed.

“Yeah, I think I made a really good impression,” he said. “I mean, I was ready for the season.”

Head coach Ben Simon agrees.

“What I like the most about Barbs is his demeanor, his compete level, his attitude, every day he comes to the rink,” Simon said.

Despite putting up big offensive numbers over four years in the AHL, the former Washington Capitals draft pick has had few opportunities at the NHL level with just 12 games overall, nine of those last season with Montreal.

“Being in the organization with Hershey and Washington when they had really good NHL teams for four years, and maybe not getting the look or the opportunity that I would like,” Barber said. “This year, I’m coming in with a totally different outlook. And I know and I’m confident in myself that I can play up there and produce.”

And as he tries to earn an opportunity with the Wings in Detroit, he’s happy he’s doing so here in Grand Rapids.

“Grand Rapids has a great reputation around the league,” Riley said. “I only got to play here once or twice here with Hershey.

“And it’s always a family event, everybody comes up and watches. So I was extremely excited about the opportunity to come to this great city.”